Summary: Christmas lights and decorations still up means you are celebrating Christmas, the Gentile Christmas - Epiphany. On this festival we celebrate that the Savior born in Bethlehem shines out good news to all nations that he is the Savior of all.
“God’s Glorious Gospel Glows In The Dark”
I. Lighting up the sin-darkened world
II. Attracting people from all nations
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I suppose its not too late to find people still celebrating the Christmas season in Jackson. Yes, you probably have seen a few Christmas trees by the roadside. Yes, you may have taken advantage of the unusually warm weather the last couple of days to take down some of your outside decorations. And, yes, there probably isn’t one single Christmas present in your house that remains wrapped in the colorful paper. For most, the Christmas season is over. But there are signs of Christmas that remain in and on many homes, and for a good reason –they are the Christmas lights.
If you have your Christmas lights and decorations still up, you have a valid reason why you’ve done so. It isn’t because you are lazy or haven’t had the time. It’s because you’re celebrating Christmas, the Gentile Christmas. It’s on this festival known as the Epiphany of our Lord, dating its beginnings back to the 100’s AD, that Gentiles celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is on this festival day that we celebrate the first known Gentile worshipers and visitors to the Christ-child. It’s on this festival that we particularly celebrate that the Savior born in Bethlehem shines out good news to all nations that he is the Savior of all.
Like a bright spotlight or a well-lit fire in a dark room, no one can miss the glowing message of this good news. Using the imagery of lights, spotlights, and candles, we’re going to let the prophet Isaiah illuminate our Epiphany celebration. He’s going to show us that “God’s Glorious Gospel Glows in the Dark.” I. Lighting up a sin-darkened world; and II. Attracting people from all nations.
I. Lighting up a sin-darkened world
A. One of the greatest fears people have is that of being in the dark. Why do you think that a majority of the scary movies are set during the nighttime hours? It causes people to be uneasy; they’re unsure of what’s around them; and most bad things seem to happen when it’s dark out.
Isaiah draws us into an eerie, gloomy, and frightening picture when he writes, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples” (2a). Do you see the heavy dark blanket that covers every part of the world? It’s pure darkness and no continent, country, village, or home escapes it. The darkness envelops it. There isn’t a glimmer of moonlight that breaks up the darkness, but it is a complete darkness. It also says, literally, that a dark cloud is over the peoples. You can kind of relate if you have ever been caught in a violent rainstorm when the afternoon hours begin to look like 8 o’clock at night. No one escapes this dark cloud; all have it hanging over them.
When the Bible uses darkness or night it often uses to picture sin, gloom, and death. It’s hopelessness. The whole sinful world is covered in this darkness, with no hope of getting better. Take New Year’s Eve, for example. When the lighted ball in Times Square drops to the bottom of the pole at 12 midnight, people welcome in the New Year. They’re thinking, “It’s a fresh start. We’re starting new.” But has anything improved? There is still the deception taking place, still the heartaches, still lies, still death. The world around us puts on a good false show of things getting better, but Jesus tells us things are getting worse. The blanket of darkness continues to become darker.
B. There was no glow in our hearts either. The dark blanket, the black clouds were there. We were like everyone else –despondent, troubled, grief. Our sin and rebellion against God knocked us down into the mud of hell with the dark clouds rolling in ever so thick. Can you picture just lying down face first with no thought or hope of ever getting up? Frightening, isn’t it, being lost in the cold darkness?
C. But listen to the wake up call. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you…the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (1,2b). Get up out of the mud and from being flat on your face. Cast aside the troubles, the gloom, the death – your light has come. It’s the glory of the Lord and he’s pierced that darkness. Remember we said that darkness covered the earth like a dark blanket? Well, picture some beams of light shining directly on believers. Jesus lights up the darkness. God’s Glorious Gospel Glows in the Darkness. John says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only…In him was life, and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:14a,4,5).